When I woke up yesterday morning, I probably should have stayed put, at least according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
I don’t have much experience with winter weather, but the agency’s online map just before dawn looked like the back of a loom, with a complex spray of colored lines indicating which roads were covered by ice, which roads were covered by snow and which roads were impassable because cars were already piled up on them.
Still, I didn’t feel like I much choice about traveling on, since I’d been sleeping on a shabby futon in what amounted to a mountain bike flophouse. My AirBnB host in Bentonville was very sweet, but the house’s few amenities included a selection of water glasses that appeared to have gotten their start as salsa jars and beard gel in the bathroom.
I’m still not sure why AirBnB doesn’t offer a points program: I could have easily collected a few free stays by now. My travel plans are guided by two of The Food Section’s core values: First, subscription fees fund journalism, not tangentially related luxuries like high thread-count sheets. Second, I aim to cover places overlooked by other media outlets, which means I often wind up in towns where I don’t have my pick of friends’ guestrooms.
Ergo (promise not to charge extra for that ten-cent word!), my standard approach to lodging is to book whichever private room on AirBnB is cheapest.
It’s not a failsafe strategy: There was a house in Norfolk administered by an offsite DJ who taped a spa-quality name to each of the seven rooms he was renting, but never acknowledged my messages asking to which one I was assigned. So, when I got to the house around midnight, I had to bang on the doors marked Calm, Serenity, and Inner Peace.
But there have been several standouts. On the off chance you’re ever in the market for affordable lodging, I heartily endorse the below (along with the excellent hostels in Wilmington and Nashville):
Northend Modern, Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only is this property clean, quiet, and comfortable, but it’s a two-block walk from the essential Leah & Louise, as well as all the other fun at Camp North End.
Oasis, Columbia, South Carolina. I guess it’s accurate to classify this stay as a private room, but it has its own entrance and bathroom, and is bigger than plenty of apartments I’ve called home. I just regret not bringing my bathing suit for the pool.
Super Cute 2-Bedroom, Lexington, Kentucky. The name is on-point: I had my best night’s sleep of 2021 here--and didn’t even try out the second bedroom.
As for my Arkansas trip, the experts were right.
It took me nearly two hours to get from Bentonville to Fayetteville, despite my car (read: the little Nissan I rented through Turo, an AirBnB for cars) being almost the only one on the highway, save for the parade of snowplows behind me. Readers of The Food Section will know what it means that every Waffle House was closed.
After that harrowing 27-mile journey, I plunked down $85 for an actual hotel room at 9 a.m. and checked into Graduate Fayetteville (also recommended!) Stay safe, everyone.
If you haven’t yet joined the ranks of The Food Section’s paid subscribers, here’s what you missed this week:
The national wing shortage has been depicted as a problem for places that serve chicken parts with celery and blue cheese, but its consequences are being felt at Chinese restaurants across the South, where wings-and-pork fried rice prevail.
Most folks want chicken soup when they come down with a cold, but one Birmingham restaurateur is banking on them developing a taste (such as it is when congested) for potatoes.
Pho joints are so uncommon in the West Virginia mountains that even the owner of a new Vietnamese restaurant admits he could get away with serving subpar broth, but he’s instead buying local beef and growing his own herbs.
Finally, The Food Section each week asks subscribers who’ve signed up at the Champion level to share why they’re supporting the newsletter. Angie Mosier was kind enough to let me share what she said:
“I'm thrilled to support food journalism and in particular, The Food Section. Food news is not just about who and what is 'in and out' or 'hot or not.' I crave stories that are informative and compelling and at the same time beautifully written. The Food Section provides the nutritional content that my mind and spirit look for in food journalism.”
Angie is a phenomenally gifted photographer, damn good singer, and all-around great person, so it’s not often the rest of us get to be like Angie. But in this case: Be Like Angie!
Very nice piece, Hanna. Yes, stay safe. Appreciate the intel on best places to stay, too. A new better Trip Advisor.
This is great, Hanna. I was just reading Duncan Hines guide to lodging from 1935, I’ll go with your current recs! :)